September 2016

This past July 10th, I, along with eleven other Boston area rabbis, boarded a Lufthansa flight in what would be a captivating, exciting, profoundly moving week’s journey to Germany.

A little about why I went to Germany. I was invited to participate in a first ever Boston area rabbinic mission to Germany sponsored by the German Government. Our destinations were Munich and Berlin. I was the sole rabbi from MetroWest. The mission’s theme was Remembrance and Hope. We were honored to be accompanied by the German Consul General to Boston, Dr. Ralf Horlemann, with whom we all became very close to as a friend. During the tour, we met with leaders of the German Jewish religious and secular communities of Munich and Berlin. We toured the Dachau Concentration Camp just a half hour outside of Munich, saw old and new synagogues, met with senior level German Government officials, spoke with German high school students, and ate delicious kosher food. And the beer was the best!

Each event we participated in was absolutely memorable. One was our meeting with refugees at a Syrian absorption center. The center provided housing, German language and culture training, and most specifically, counselors to help the refugees begin to integrate into their new adopted country. We met one man in his thirties who lost his family apartment and small business because of ISIS and the Syrian civil war. He and his family of three children traveled mostly by foot from Syria to Germany, with a harrowing sea crossing similar to what we’ve seen on television news. He showed us one photo of his three kids with life vests clutching inner tubes to make it ashore in Greece. His account wasn’t just a random news story, but a personal first person account. He was thankful for his new home. His interpreter was also Syrian who left six years earlier because he saw the writing on the wall with Assad and his reign of terror. I couldn’t help thinking about those German Jews who saw a similar emerging evil in 1933 Germany. Most German Jews thought then that the new ruling Nazi party would blow over but a few understood what was happening and left. They survived. However, over 142, 000 German Jews were murdered during the Shoah.

The second take-away for me was our bonding as rabbis and colleagues. Not everyone knew each other beforehand. We were from all three major religious movements—Conservative, Orthodox, and Reform—pulpit, academic, hospital and Hillel rabbis, both men and women, too. We all got along fantastically well. Some were children of survivors; others had vowed never to visit Germany or even buy German products. And one member of our group, Rabbi Joseph Polack, was a child survivor of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. We each gave each other hizzuk-strength-during the trip. More so, because we shared a common goal to remember and reflect on what it meant to be in a Jews in Germany today. Our individual perspectives became an unforgettable “one.”

I look forward to sharing more with you about our Remembrance and Hope mission during High Holy Day services.


Rabbi, Dr. Larry Bazer